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Iceberg dead ahead: The world’s largest iceberg just broke off from Antarctica

Titanic better watch out

A lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season.
In this undated file photo, a lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season.
Rodrigo Jana, Associated Press

The world’s largest iceberg just broke off Antarctica in a process known as ice calving.

The European Space Agency confirmed the event Wednesday, reported CNN. The gigantic iceberg is 1,668 square miles in size and roughly shaped like an ironing board.

Officials named the ice chunk A-76, using the standard convention of the Antarctic quadrant followed by the sequential number of icebergs in the area, CNN reports. If A-76 breaks further, the smaller chunks will be named with sequential letters.

Why did the iceberg break off?

The iceberg was first sighted last week by polar oceanographer Keith Makinson with the British Antarctic Survey. The European Space Agency began watching the iceberg on May 13 using two satellites, NBC News reports.

According to CNN and NBC News, scientists have not attributed this particular ice calving to climate change. Ice calving is part of the natural cycle of ice shelves, with chunks breaking off at regular intervals.

What happens to the iceberg now?

A-76 will eventually melt and break apart, HuffPost reports. The iceberg may move northward toward waves and warmer water temperatures. However, because the iceberg was already floating in the ocean, A-76 will not cause sea levels to rise, CNN said.

Is this the largest iceberg ever?

No, A-76 is the world’s largest iceberg right now. Previously, an iceberg named A-23A held the title with a size of about 1,500 square miles, NBC News said. A-23A is still floating in the Weddell Sea.